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Governor's office releases findings from investigation into the death of teenager in Boone County

Robert Fields | WVOW News

CHARLESTON Governor Jim Justice’s administration discussed their findings Thursday in the investigation of state responsibility for the life and recent death of a teenage girl in Boone County.

Questions have swirled since April 17 when 14-year-old Kyneddi Miller was found dead – “emaciated to a skeletal state” in her Morrisvale home. GPS coordinates from 2023 place a State Police cruiser at Miller’s home, later leaving the home and driving directly to the Boone County human services office in Foster. State Police call log and audio from that incident suggest that a trooper intended to “make a referral,” to human services.

During Thursday’s press conference, Governor Justice’s chief of staff Brian Abraham confirmed that troopers did drive to that human services office, passing along an informal concern regarding the girl. According to Abraham, Miller was allegedly unusually worried about being exposed to COVID-19.

“In actuality, they indicate that the girl made an indication to him, the trooper, that she was fearful of COVID and that she did not want to be around people because she was fearful of COVID. The officer believed that was odd for a person of that age to have such a belief and he wanted to go the department and at least make them aware of it and see if somebody would call and talk to her about it.”

Abraham said that conversation between troopers and human services staff was not formal and did not, in any way, raise any red flags that Miller’s home situation should be investigated. According to Abraham, troopers told him that, apart from finding her fear of COVID strange, Miller appeared to be nourished and in good health.

Following the discovery of Miller’s body in her home in April, her mother and grandparents have been charged with felony child neglect causing death.

According to investigators, the girl had not attended public school since 2020 or late 2019, and hadn’t been seen outside of the home more than a couple of times in the past four years.

Miller’s family submitted homeschooling documentation in February 2021, with doubts being cast as to whether the school system had any contact whatsoever with Miller after that. Boone County’s school system, in response to recent requests from reporters regarding Miller’s homeschooling assessments, has said that “no public records exist.”

Abraham pointed to a provision in West Virginia’s state code, which requires home-schooled students to take standardized assessments at certain points in a child’s education in order to gauge their progress. According to the law, however, the school system “may” pursue action against the parents or guardians of a child if those assessments are not submitted, but no action is actually required. State Superintendent of Schools Michelle Blatt said Thursday that changes in that regard are decidedly necessary.

“While we know that we have a great deal of home school parents that do things the right way and take care of their kids and it’s the best choice for those families, I think that our 7,000 foster kids in the system is proof that not all parents do what’s best for their children,” Blatt said.

“During the pandemic, our biggest concern was that we did not have eyes on some of these students for over a year, and currently, once a student – even if an assessment had been provided – it could be an electronic assessment or submitted to the office. It doesn’t mean that we would have seen that child or that the outcome would have been any different. So, I’d like to strengthen the requirements so that there is an agency that actually – among all of us, if the assessment’s not given, there’s some way that we have contact with that family and that we see that child.”

Governor Justice, who did not appear at the press conference, has described an ongoing internal investigation – aside from the current criminal investigation into Miller’s death – and has urged the public to let it play out. Thursday’s hour and a half of responses to questions was the culmination of that work. No written report was produced.

West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair released a statement following the press conference saying it’s clear the system of checks and balances has flaws, urging lawmakers to “improve our regulations related to home schooled children to ensure that no children suffer this same outcome.”

Watch the conference in its entirety at the link below



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